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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived May 10, 2017
Originally Published April 4, 2017

Versatile Chardonnay – Part 3
Part 3 in a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

With each week’s tastings, we continue to appreciate Chardonnay for its versatility and ability to add enjoyment to a meal.  This week, we savored a flight of exemplary wines with chicken grilled with Peruvian spices.  

Something I have noticed this year is that many wines improve with aeration – some even require it.  Before you render a judgment on a wine as being lifeless and closed in, give it some air by swirling in your glass or even decanting the bottle. 

Dancin Vineyard
2015 Chardonnay, Capriccio
Southern Oregon AVA

It is not often that a Chardonnay can offer both superb character for hedonistic sipping AND the structure to accommodate pairing with a delicious meal.  Dan and Cindy Marca’s Capriccio Chardonnay does just that.  Whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented with native yeast, the wine offers apple, pear and spice with complex notes of creamy vanilla, hazelnut and tropical fruits.  Limited availability. 

Tamarack Cellars
2016 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

This bright and tasty Chardonnay was a hit for its food-friendly acidity combined with zesty flavors of citrus, stone fruits and Golden Delicious apple.  The finish adds notes of butterscotch and macadamia nuts.  It was great with chicken, but would be even better with seafood. 

Lange Winery
2015 Chardonnay, Three Hills Cuvee
Willamette Valley AVA

It seems like just yesterday when Don and Wendy Lange were the new kids on the Dundee Hills block and the excitement of their new winery was the talk of the town.  In fact, it was 30 years ago, and son Jesse Lange is now making spectacular wines from both estate and purchased fruit.  Look for citrus, mineral and hints of vanilla on the nose, and a palate adding stone fruits, herbs and racy acidity – outstanding! 

Columbia Winery
2014 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

Columbia Winery’s winemaker Sean Hails is guiding the pioneering wine brand in a well-planned direction of solid, varietally true and consumer friendly bottlings.  Large quantities of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend offer style and affordability.  In the Chardonnay, look for pear and apple with tropical fruits, vanilla and spice.  

Iris Vineyards
2014 Chardonnay, Chalice Estate

Iris Vineyards is nestled in the foothills of the Coast Range mountains 20 minutes southwest of Eugene, Oregon.  This wine comes from their Chalice Estate Vineyard which in 2014 enjoyed a near perfect growing season.  A little decanting with aeration helped this wine achieve its full potential to reveal a nose of pear, butterscotch and melon with a similar palate following with added flavors of citrus and mineral. 

Maryhill Winery
2015 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

The time has come to trundle down the Columbia River Gorge and enjoy an afternoon at Maryhill Winery!  Spectacular vistas, delicious wines, hospitable diversions… it is all there for you, your friends and even your pooch.  Maryhill’s Classic Chardonnay offers ripe pear and white peach with hints of citrus, toasty vanilla and spice. 

Woodward Canyon Winery
2014 Chardonnay
Washington State

The fruit for this classic Woodward Canyon Chardonnay comes 49% from their estate vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA and 51% from the renowned Celilo Vineyard on Underwood Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge.  Whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented in French oak (20% new), the wine offers ripe pear, baked apple and stone fruits mingling with toasted hazelnut, vanilla and creamy citrus notes. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2015 Chardonnay
Willamette Valley AVA

This wine is the little brother to Ponzi Reserve Chardonnay, reviewed in last week’s column.  It offers the same structure and complexity, just a little less of the restrained power and intensity.  Look for aromas and flavors of citrus, orchard blossom, baking spice and mineral with nice acid balance for pairing with your favorite light meals. 

Patterson Cellars
2016 Chardonnay
Ancient Lakes AVA

Winemaker John Patterson sourced fruit from Sagecliffe Vineyard in the newer Ancient Lakes AVA near Quincy, Washington to craft his 2016 Chardonnay.  Parts were fermented in barrel and stainless steel, achieving a delicious balance – important in our versatile Chardonnay definition!  Look for creamy lemon and crisp apple with pear, baking spice and tropical notes. 

Chateau Ste. Michelle
2015 Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard
Columbia Valley AVA

This historic vineyard lies at the crossroads of several different growing areas in Washington State.  The 40-year-old vines guarantee complexity and concentrated fruit, and astute winemaking by the experienced staff at Chateau Ste. Michelle add the nuances that have made this wine a classic Washington Chardonnay for more than 25 years.  Look for ripe pear and tropical fruits with hints of toasty brioche, vanilla and waves of complex barrel spice. 

Buty Winery
2015 Chardonnay, Conner Lee Vineyard
Columbia Valley AVA

Nina Buty founded her winery in 2000 and has guided the evolution of her varietals and blends through many vintages.  Today, she is joined by winemaker Chris Dowsett who has helped define a rich, aromatically driven style.  The Conner Lee Chardonnay displays Washington wine at its best, showing ripe tree fruits floating on fragrant clouds of floral and tropical notes pierced by arresting flavors of sur lie character and barrel spice. 

L’Ecole No 41
2015 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

The historic winery founded by Baker and Jean Ferguson continues to evolve and expand while keeping standby favorites like the Columbia Valley Chardonnay as entry level wines for eager consumers.  Look for aromas and flavors of ripe pear and tropical fruits with notes of anise, baking spice and vanilla. 

2015 Chardonnay

Folks who appreciate less expensive wines have an advantage over others in that they often get much more than they were expecting.  About Acrobat Chardonnay, one friend says, “Drinks like a $30 wine, but it only costs $15!”   An added bonus to this all stainless-steel beauty is the bright fruit and crisp acidity.  Aromas of lime, white peach and gooseberry are followed by lighter tropical flavors mingling with pear and Granny Smith apple. 

Mercer Estate
2014 Chardonnay, Reserve, Zephyr Ridge Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This wine is a tropical dream offering guava, pineapple and apricot, mingling with notes of toasty oak and vanilla.  Malolactic fermentation was restricted to reserve food-friendly acidity on the finish – very tasty with our Peruvian chicken entrée.

Wines from other areas

Grgich Hills Eatate
2014 Chardonnay, Miljenko’s Selection
Carneros AVA – Napa

This wine is a ne plus ultra tier of the already spectacular wines crafted by Mike Grgich and his talented winemaking team. These selections are produced primarily for wine club members and winery visitors to purchase. My tasting panel enjoyed the rich complexity of tropical fruit, citrus and hazelnut with sur lie character and toasty vanilla on the finish. 

Robert Mondavi Winery
2014 Chardonnay
Napa Valley AVA

Operation and management of Robert Mondavi Winery is now overseen by parent Constellation Brands, but this particular corner of the label has been maintained to the standards of the great man of wine fame.  Look for lemon, stone fruits and mineral with forward notes of vanilla and toasty oak with balancing acidity. 

Steele Winery
2015 Cuvee Chardonnay

Grapes for this wine came from the Santa Maria Valley (near Paso Robles), the Carneros AVA (Napa) and from Mendocino County.  The delicious mélange harmonizes with tropical notes of mango, pineapple and papaya, citrus character, and ripe apple and spice from Mendocino – the winery suggests halibut with white wine beurre blanc sauce. 

Oberon Winery
2015 Chardonnay
Los Carneros AVA

Napa Valley native, winemaker Tony Coltrin brings more than 40 years of winemaking experience to Oberon where he crafted this tempting Chardonnay from grapes grown in the Los Carneros AVA.  Fragrant orchard blossom mingles with caramel apple and ripe pear leading to flavors of apple, nectarine and crème bruleé. 

Natura Emiliana
2016 Chardonnay
Casablanca Valley, Chile

This unoaked Chardonnay from Chile offers the bright fruit flavors and crisp acidity that we look for in a food-friendly Chardonnay.  Aromas and flavors of grapefruit, lime and pineapple are perfect foils for spicy chicken, seafood of all types and even light pastas with cream sauces.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



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All rights reserved.  Last revised: 05/22/2017